Eat, move and wear: attitudes and behaviors of the health-conscious consumer.
Have you noticed the transformation in your neighborhood?
First, your local bar started offering gluten-free burger buns. Next, a fair trade gift shop popped up down the road. Now within a single zip code there are two gyms, a boutique barre studio and a fitness club offers something called “yoga-lates”. Even the way people dress has changed. Workout clothes are worn for more than “working out.” and Fitbits have replaced regular watches.
This transformation is driven by more than a few health-crazed consumers. The “clean living” movement has grown consistently in recent years, and has finally entered mainstream culture. In this report, we use Hitwise data to analyze the effect this movement has had on consumer demand, attitudes and behaviors.
What is “Clean Living”?
“Clean Living” has many meanings. To some, it is a conscious effort to eat healthily and exercise. To others, it’s driven by an ethical approach to how we consume and what we wear. For many it reflects the integration of healthy and fit choices into their daily life.
However people define it, clean living is a multi-billion dollar industry. According to the USDA, the market for organic products exceeds $39 billion in the US. Meanwhile, the fitness club industry has surpassed $30 billion in revenue according to IBISWorld. Thanks largely to the popularity of activewear, Morgan Stanley reports that sports apparel sales have increased 42% in the past seven years, up to $270 billion.
The following clean living audiences have expanded in the past year:
Online searches for nutrition, diet and superfood terms have risen by 70% from 2014 to 2016.* As consumer interest in healthy food rises, it becomes increasingly important for brands to distinguish short-lived diets from real nutrition movements. In this chapter, we distinguish fads vs. trends, examine popular superfoods and give a snapshot of Whole Foods customers.
*Searches measured 52 weeks, year on year for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“Fads” vs. “Trends”
The food industry is notorious for “here today, gone tomorrow” diet fads (Atkins, anyone?).
However, search data also reveals several consistent food trends that are gaining continuous traction. For example, since 2014, searches for “gluten free” have risen steadily by 141%, and show no sign of slowing.
Meanwhile, searches for the “paleo” diet hit a sudden peak in January of 2016, with variations like “what is paleo” ‘“paleo recipes” and “paleo snacks” – but this sudden interest steadily lost steam (as do many New Years resolutions) over the course of the year.*
Steady food trends reflect consumer’s desire for longterm change in their eating habits, whereas sudden spike may indicate a more short-lived diet fad.
The term “superfood” has gotten a lot of buzz in the last few years — perhaps verging on overuse.
However the growing popularity of superfoods points consumers’ increasing concern around the nutritional value of their food, whether it’s antioxidants or Omega 3’s. This is exemplified by the increases in superfood searches over the past three years, such as chia seeds and acai berries.
Spotlight: Whole Foods
With nearly $16 Billion in revenue in 2016, Whole Foods embodies the growing consumer demand (and willingness to pay) for organic and sustainably grown food. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Generation X remains the most loyal and largest audience, as do consumers who make over $100,000; meanwhile 18 – 24 year olds are the most under-indexed segment, likely due to the steep prices. Interestingly, Whole Foods customers are particularly averse to TV advertising, but are more likely than the average consumer to be receptive to advertisements in and around movie theaters.
Over the last decade or two the fitness industry underwent a makeover – and it worked. Consumers see working out less as a “chore” and more as a “way of life.” Searches for gyms and fitness terms have increased by 66% in the past three years.* Fitness challenges like the Tough Mudder and Ironman have skyrocketed in popularity amongst both men and women. In this chapter, we look at faces behind three major fitness challenges, and take a deep-dive into Crossfit fans.
Exercise Challenges Go Mainstream
Challenge sports are no longer for the fitness elite, they are increasingly attracting your everyday Joe – and Jane. Although the goal to “push yourself to the limit” is a common thread, each of the following competitions draws a different audience.
Since its founding in 2000, CrossFit has evolved from a popular fitness regimen into a $4 Billion brand with 13,000 gyms globally. Its success lies partly in physical results, but also in the cultish following built around the CrossFit way of life. Considering the focus on weight lifting it’s interesting to note there are more women engaged with CrossFit online than men. CrossFit fans are more likely to seek out organic foods as well as environmentally friendly products, and they tend to agree with statements that reflect early technology adoption.
Fitness Movements Making Waves Across Industries
CrossFit evolved into a national brand thanks in part to a series of strategic, cross-industry partnerships. On the retail side, some marketers argued that Reebok’s sponsorship of the CrossFit games revived their waning relevance; meanwhile, Reebok’s infusion of capital allowed CrossFit to boost the stakes of their Games with millions in prize money. The sudden increase in participation and fierce displays of athleticism drew the attention of media moguls like ESPN for live streaming.
Meanwhile, similar sponsorships crop up every day, between Ironman and GoPro, Tough Mudder and Old Spice and Red Bull’s series of extreme sports competitions. This suggests that there is room for creative sponsorship beyond traditional sports leagues, for brands prepared to take risks and jump on the bandwagon early.
Searches for activewear and fitness wearables have increased by an incredible 209% in the past three years.* In this chapter, we spotlight brands that have propelled the concept of a “fashionably fit lifestyle” into public consciousness. From Lululemon spearheading the “altheisure” apparel movement, to Fitbit bringing fitness trackers into the mainstream.
Online visits to the sports apparel industry has grown by 22% from 2014 to 2016.* This rise is, in part, powered by popular and established sports apparel brands, such as Nike and Adidas.
But another key driver to this meteoric rise comes from the growing popularity of activewear (or athleisure) brands, and fitness wearables. The number of people searching for these two types of product categories has shot up even more dramatically over the past year**:
In only a handful of years, yoga pants have become a fashion statement, and Fitbits have evolved into the most popular holiday gift several years running. Let’s take a look at the consumers buying into these trends.
Spotlight: Lululemon Athletica
Founded as a boutique Canadian activewear brand nearly 20 years ago, Lululemon is today valued at $8 Billion and has been credited with founding the “athleisure” apparel movement. The modern athleisure consumer is fashion-forward, enjoys makeup and is willing to spend more money on activewear that makes a fitness and fashion statement. The largest segment of Lululemon consumers are older Millennials, although Gen X is the most over-indexed age group; perhaps because they are more likely to afford $90 for a pair of yoga pants.
From a term that was almost non-existent a decade ago, “fitness trackers” have become a household product and a staple of gift-givers over the holidays. FitBit is by far the leader of the fitness wearables movement, with annual revenue in the billions. Their audience is predominantly female, with 35 – 44 year olds dominating the demand; perhaps in part due to gifts purchased by mothers. They also reflect a more middle-ofthe-road retail consumer, over-indexing for engagement with brands such as Kohls and Old Navy.
This movement offers incredible opportunities for brands willing to understand the needs of the Clean Living consumer. Here are some tips based on our findings:
1. Market to trends over fads
Consumers are less interested in crash diets and detoxes. They crave real, lasting solutions for bettering their lives. Brands should focus on identifying short-lived fads vs. consistent trends, and align themselves with stable trends for long-term success.
2. Feed consumer desire for clarity and information
Modern consumers care more deeply than ever about “real” food, effective workouts and making authentic choices that are better for them and the planet. Support their discovery and growth by providing helpful and trustworthy information.
3. Tap into the movement with smart partnerships
Connecting with movements can help you connect with passionate, fitness-driven communities. Consider partnering with brands or sponsoring events that are already reaching a desirable audience, in a way that will be beneficial to everyone.
A growing number of consumers are prepared to spend more of their income on products and experiences that improve their health. Some brands have been able to capitalize on this movement, while others are struggling to catch up. The key lies in identifying the right audiences and understanding the attitudes, behaviors and trends that shape people’s desire to live a clean and healthy life.